Success for Ardian in the public-private partnership sector. The complementarity between the techno-logical know-how of the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES) and the financial expertise of Ardian was instrumental in the ramp-up of CLS. This niche technology company has become the leader in all its segments, spurred by the combined efforts of its public and private shareholders as well as its management.
As a subsidiary of the CNES and Ifremer (the French marine research institute), CLS (Collecte Localisation Satellites) specializes in processing satellite data, primarily for environmental monitoring and resource management. In 2013, and for the first time, the CNES decided to allow a private player to invest in its subsidiary. It selected us as a partner for several reasons: our institutional heritage, our international coverage – a vital asset to support the group’s development – and, finally, our complimentary skill set.
We, on the other hand, were attracted by CLS’s growth potential, its loyal private and public-sector customer base, its stable and committed management team and the sector’s high barriers to entry.
We therefore concluded a non-standard agreement and invested €29.5M, taking a minority interest of 32% alongside a public-sector organization. Throughout this partnership, the CNES has drawn on our skills in strategic direction and financial reporting, while it has provided its technological expertise.
“I’d like to thank the Ardian, CNES, and Ifremer teams for their support. They have really been there for us, playing a major role in developing new expertise and supporting our international expansion. Their strategic and practical guidance has helped strengthen our leadership and broaden our portfolio of solutions. We are delighted to welcome CNP, an investor that shares our vision and corporate philosophy. CNP, together with CNES, will help us grow and take on new challenges for a sustainable planet.”
Structuring and acquisitions to bolster a leading position
We initially focused on CLS’s finance function, setting up KPIs and improving financial reporting, cash management and the group’s control over international subsidiaries.
As figures mean nothing without human capital, we advised CLS to improve its approach to talent management and strengthen its CSR policies.
In a very competitive sector, we assisted the management team with a major reorganization of CLS’ activities into five business units. This boosted innovation and focused CLS’s activity on key customer needs (maritime safety, environmental and climate monitoring, sustainable fishery management, etc.), enabling it to become a leader in each of these sectors.
This leading position was strengthened through acquisitions. We assisted CLS with five transactions, covering the identification of targets, the audit and valuation phases, and financial structuring. These deals enabled CLS to gain a foothold in new markets, expand its geographical coverage or acquire state-of-the-art technology.
Two of these deals enabled CLS to triple in size in the crucial US market, where it has become an agile and innovative player.
Equipped for the future
Eighteen months before our original target date to exit, we backed a €100M fundraising for CLS, demonstrating our confidence in the company and our solid relationship with CNES. This fundraising was crucial in setting up ground-breaking satellite infrastructure to support ARGOS, a unique worldwide location and data collection system. Through its new subsidiary, Kinéis, CLS operates 25 nano-satellites, boosting its position in space development and strategic data collection.
This opportunity finalizes the value creation plan that has guided our six years of involvement with CLS. During this period, the company doubled its profitability and strengthened its international foothold, with two-thirds of its revenue now generated outside France. This illustrates the excellent results that a trusting partnership between public and private-sector shareholders, alongside a committed management team, can produce.
We worked very closely with the management teams, the CNES and IFREMER, while keeping the necessary leeway to assume our role as active investor. Due to its reorganization, the acquisitions and Kineis, CLS is in an excellent position to embrace the future and has a pipeline of opportunities generated by synergies that can now be seized.